by Mat Larsen
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...will hang on as long as I can. I have one here and my lap is awfully cuddly. If you're listening to this, you might not know about the Squog.
We found her on our doorstep, two hands long and light as a tuna melt. Myrna saw her and squealed. My daughter dropped her satchel to stroke those gorgeous rounded ears.
"Careful, Myrna! She might bite! Or carry rabies," I did not say. The little thing distracted me with her opening eyes. Sigh-purring and dog-knitting her brows, her tail twitched like a squirrel. She radiated heat like a newborn.
Myrna said, "Squog," which I knew would be the perfect name for the creature. She reached down, picked her up without resistance. We headed inside to find a cardboard box until we decided what to do with her.
The Squog had other ideas. As we walked into the living room she sailed from Myrna's arms to land belly side up on the couch. My daughter dashed forward to pet that soft velvety mass, butter in furry form. I resisted for six heartbeats. The rest of the morning passed in a giggle-tinted blur.
Oona called. I had to explain why I was not at work and Myrna out of school. A lump formed in my throat. "Can we keep her?" I asked plaintively, distracted as the Squog gnawed on a pair of fireplace tongs.
"One step at a time," Oona cautioned. "We should see if somebody lost her."
"What do we say? 'Have you seen a... furry love magnet?" I looked over. The Squog was no help. No collar or RFID skin bump, although we found a tag in the back that read, "Echo Mountain Products," a company I used to work for that sold fluorescent dogs for safety crews.
"I tried calling their number, honest. The number was disconnected."
"Doug, you didn't hang up after the third ring. Did you?"
Oona's disapproval hung in the air and dropped the moment she saw the Squog. We spent all night playing fetch. Squog caught almost anything thrown near her, although I remember she preferred cell phones and loose change. Her fur smelled like bathwater and ozone. We should have known.
The next day we convinced the veterinarian to pay a house call. Dr. Greenfield brought shots for rabies, distemper, worms and anything else standing in the way of our adopting the Squog. He asked a lot of questions. Where did she come from? What was the deal with the tag? Where could he get one of his own?
We shrugged. One we knew immediately. An abdominal palpation revealed a hardened clutch just below her hips. The Squog was pregnant. How long before she delivered?
Not long at all, in fact. Dr. Greenfield came back later to pick up a syringe. We sat down for tea. The Squog trotted up to us, yawned hard enough to unhinge her jaw. A gush of fluid emerged, followed by a litter of tiny, wet Squogs, ruining Dr. Greenfield's wing tips.
He took three tiny Squogs, already soft as dew, as recompense, leaving us two to give to our neighbors and a news van that showed up the next day. Soon enough, Squog mania had us all in its soft, ozone grip.
By the end of the week, we noticed some unusual things.
The change disappeared from our sofa. Something knocked holes in the drywall, yanking wiring out and reducing it to rubbery blobs. The solenoid disappeared from our microwave. An indoor pine tree was uprooted, but nobody could find a trace of the potting soil. Myrna's Halloween candy lost all of the blue M&Ms.
The Squog ate constantly. She did not poop. She was constantly pregnant. Threatened, she would swallow a litter at birth, where they gestated larger and came up later. Reports said some babies ate their way out.
Squog control was impossible. When cornered, the creatures would flatten, that fabulous fur bonding at a molecular level like gecko feet. You had to cut away the wall and the floor. Sometimes, this resulted in further tragedies.
Echo Mountain Products released a film showing the team that created the Squog. It's mostly boring PowerPoint to the 28:10 mark, when the Squog strapped to the table behind a foot of safety glass unhinges its legs and folds into itself like a puzzle box. Moments later, it turns black and explodes, cracking the safety glass and killing the head of sales, who was apparently a douche because everyone else in the room cheers even their cell phones melt into silver pancake batter.
We later learned they all belonged to an end-of-the-world genetic mod cult identified by their LARPing and silver Chuck Taylors. Squogs are cute bombs, living the Heaven's Gate dream, carpet bombing America through our own kitsch. Survive the explosion and the electromagnetic pulse fries everything electronic, zeroing your credit cards and demolishing your Internet, your banking, power grid and porn.
We've already lost Pittsburgh, Akron, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, and Las Vegas. They shoot anything smaller than a terrier in Miami, but it will only slow them down. You need to know the truth. There is a way to defeat them, a special sequence designed by the cultists to hold the apocalypse to their timetable. It's childishly simple.
If only we'd known before Oona... Myrna discovered parts of her in the junk room, where I kept the old video equipment.
Hold it together, Doug. There will be plenty of dating opportunities when we rebuild. Look. Do what I'm doing. Start with the tail; rub in a counter-clockwise fashion, quickly and correctly. Miss one sequence, press the nose just once, and she'll detonate... and...
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Matt Larsen is a performer, writer, director and network administrator in Chicago whose works have appeared in Flashshot, Static Movement, Golden Visions Magazine and Sonar 4 Ezine.
He is the co-author of "The Paper Spaceship," a science fiction musical for children recommended by the Chicago Reader, and has studied improvisational comedy under legends Martin de Maat, Del Close and Stephen Colbert.
He credits his wife with beating him to print publication, loving him dearly, and, in November, 2009, celebrating the birth of their daughter, who as a story one hopes comes without an ending.
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